Let’s start off this week’s Lynx mailbag by talking about an issue that is facing the team right away: Its roster.
A reader asks if Odyssey Sims and Jessica Shepard will be ready should the season start. And, if they are, how difficult will it be for the Lynx to reach their 12-player roster?
This is a very timely question given a report by the Associated Press this week that said teams will be asked to pare their rosters to 12 by next Tuesday so that players can start getting paid June 1.
This will present teams with difficult decisions, including the Lynx, who will have to make decisions about a number of younger players – including their second- and third-round draft selections (Crystal Dangerfield and Erica Ogwumike) without having watched them practice with the team.
Sims and Shepard are question marks for different reasons. Sims gave birth to a son in early April. She has remained mum on whether she’ll play this season, but the Lynx still believe she will be available, at least at some point.
In mid-June Shepard will reach the one-year mark from surgery she had after tearing the ACL in her right knee early in last season. Frankly, Reeve doesn’t know exactly how Shepard is doing, in large part because of the limitations stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
I think it’d be safe to assume that, should a season get going this summer, both of these players might not be available when it begins.
Which leads us to another question, what does the depth chart look like at all five positions?
*Let’s start with guard. Assuming Sims is not available right away, my educated guess is the starting backcourt would be Shenise Johnson and Cecilia Zandalasini, with Lexie Brown and Rachel Banham in the rotation.
Johnson and Banham are new additions Reeve hasn’t coached. Zandalasini, from Italy, hasn’t played for the Lynx since 2018. So there is a lot of learning to do, on both sides. “I think it’s a pretty blank canvas,’’ Reeve said. “I know I like the games of [Johnson] and Cecilia and Lexie and Rachel. We’ll try to find ways to play them all.’’
Sims' return would give the Lynx a player who can attack the basket and run the floor. Rookie Dangerfield from Connecticut – who I think makes the team – gives the team a true point guard off the bench.
*And now power forward: Starter Damiris Dantas backed up by rookie first-round draft pick Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and, if healthy, Shepard.
*At small forward starter Napheesa Collier is backed up by Karima Christmas-Kelly. I could see a small lineup that had Zandalasini at the three, but she’d have to prove she can rebound well enough at that position.
*Starting center Sylvia Fowles is backed up by newcomer Kayla Alexander.
A reader askes whether the Lynx still hold Moore’s rights even though she’s heading into year two of her WNBA hiatus.
The short answer: Yes.
I asked Reeve, who is also the team's GM, about this. “We have her rights,’’ she said. “When a player signs a contract [something Moore did prior to the 2019 season even as she was announcing her intention to step away from the game] and does not fulfill that contract, they go on the suspended list. When they come off that list, exclusive negotiating rights go to that team.’’
Former Gopher and Lynx player Janel McCarville was in a similar situation for a different reason. Taken by New York in the 2007 dispersal draft – she began her career with the Charlotte Sting – McCarville and the Liberty were at odds by 2011 and McCarville sat out both that WNBA season and in 2012.
The Lynx were interested in bringing her to Minnesota once McCarville expressed a desire to return to the league prior to the 2013 season. But they had to get her in a three-team trade because the Liberty retained her rights.